The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 9, 2014

For Auburn, season lost, but not forgotten

By Jonathan Deal

PASADENA, Calif. — Auburn may have lost a game Monday night, but its dream season will always be remembered.

When Tre Mason was finally brought down on what looked like another improbable finish that might go the Tigers way, it closed the curtain on one of the most remarkable streaks in American sports history.

Who expected Auburn to be here a year ago when Gus Malzahn was hired? Who expected Auburn to be here just three months ago after losing to LSU three games into the season?

Not many, if any.

Auburn’s run to the national championship game is the most improbable and remarkable of the BCS Championship era. The same players who went 3-9 and didn’t win an SEC game a year ago are now champions.

Maybe not National Champions, but the list of what this team bounced back to accomplish is nothing short of a miracle.

Iron Bowl champs, Western Division Champs, SEC Champs and the opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl. And still, those titles don’t do justice to the way this team played and won games throughout the season.

Walking into the reigning Heisman trophy winner’s house and beating Texas A&M as two touchdown underdogs, pulling off the “Jordan-Hare Mary” to beat Georgia in the final minute of the game and the “Kick Six” to beat rival Alabama with one second to play.

Auburn proved that it takes more than talent to win a championship in D-1 football. Talented teams win titles, but it takes a depth and a little luck to even make it to the big game, much less win it.

And Auburn proved they were as good as any team in the country, going toe-to-toe with a team perceived as one of the best in the BCS era, setting an FBS record for 723 points scored.

A 10-point underdog entering the game, Auburn led undefeated FSU 21-3 just before halftime and by eight points entering the fourth quarter. Auburn reached the Florida State 40-yard line five times Monday night and scored three points total from those trips into Seminole territory.

The Tigers outgained Florida State by nearly 100 yards and sacked Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston four times.

In the end, it wasn’t enough as Florida State gave Auburn a dose of its own medicine with a late kickoff return TD and last second touchdown to win the game.

“We were just on the brink of making it one of those magical seasons, but there’s so many great things that we’ll take away.” said Malzahn after the game “I just told the seniors, they laid the ground work for our program moving forward. And our program is very bright right now.”

Tre Mason and Greg Robinson could leave early for the NFL draft in the coming days, but even so, Auburn would still return nine starters from an offense that set a school record for total offense and become the first SEC team to lead the nation in rushing at season’s end.

The future is bright for Auburn and Florida State, but there will never be a season quite like this one.

Auburn fans will always remember where they were when Ricardo Louis caught that deflection and jumping for joy when Chris Davis pulled off the unthinkable.

And standing in the end zone behind that final play, it looked to me and thousands of others holding their breath in the Rose Bowl that Mason might pull off one final miracle.

And who would have doubted them?

After all, it was miracles that got Auburn here in the first place.